It’s not an exaggeration to say that without the Willamette River, the valley that shares its name would look far different today. It was the river’s fertile farmlands and floodplains, after all, that made it such an appealing home for generations of Native Americans and Oregon Trail emigrants. And easy river access has long made it possible to travel around Eugene, Albany, Independence, and Salem—all cities through which the Willamette River flows today.
The Willamette River isn’t the shipping channel it once was—but crops grown in the surrounding valley continue to reach consumers around the world today. And, not for nothing, but the river is a vibrant source of recreation for countless locals and visitors all year long.
Fed by mountain tributaries south of Eugene, the Willamette River flows northward for nearly 200 miles before emptying into the Columbia River near Portland. Along the way, it passes through cities large and small, boasts dramatic wildlife viewing opportunities, offers all manner of outdoor recreation, and showcases the natural beauty of the iconic Willamette Valley. Albany is centrally located on the river and many popular section itinerary options pass through or near Albany.
And you can see it all along the Willamette Water Trail, which covers 187 miles of wonder along the mainstem Willamette River, as well as the Coast Fork Willamette, Middle Fork Willamette, and the McKenzie rivers.
So what is the Willamette Water Trail, anyway? Think of it as, well, a hiking trail—but on water. Instead of walking all those miles, you can paddle or float as much or as little of the Willamette River as you’d like; in-town landings and roughly 50 riverside campsites make it easy to plan a leisurely afternoon on the water or a fascinating multi-day adventure—whatever sounds fun and doable.
Before you hit the water, here’s a bit about what to expect, how to stay safe, and how to get started.
Here are a few amenities we’d recommend for Water Trail travellers:
206 1/2 Historic Hotel
206 ½ is Albany’s only Historic Hotel, located in the heart of the downtown community. Perched atop Margin Coffee, this 7 bedroom boutique bed and breakfast boasts an amazing view of 2nd Ave SW and beyond.
Albany’s Historic Carousel and Museum
503 1st Ave W, Albany, OR 97321
|Albany Saturday Farmers’ Market||4th Ave. & Ellsworth St.||(541)740-1542||www.locallygrown.org|
|Brick & Mortar Cafe||222 1st Ave W||(541)791-7845||https://www.brickandmortarcafe.com/|
|Calapooia Brewing Co.||140 Hill St. NE||(541) 928-1931||https://www.calapooiabrewing.com/|
|Ciddici’s Pizza||133 5th Ave SE||541-928-2536||https://www.ciddicispizza.com/|
|Deluxe Brewing Company||635 NE Water Ave. Suites B & D||541-928-7699||https://www.sinisterdeluxe.com/|
|First Burger||210 W 1st Ave||541-704-1128||http://thefirstburger.com/|
|Frankie’s Restaurant||641 Hickory St. N.W.||541-248-3671||https://frankiesalbany.wpengine.com/|
|Gamberetti’s Italian Restaurant||211 First Ave W||(541)497-2181||http://gamberettis.com/|
|Homegrown Oregon Foods||212 1st Ave Se||(541) 971-7174||https://homegrownoregonfoods.com/|
|Honeybrine||315 Lyon St.||(720) 238-1449||https://www.honeybrine-oregon.com/|
|Little Wuesten Café||115 SW Ellsworth St.||(541)926-3988||https://www.facebook.com/Little-Wuesten-German-Foods-1017379428285959/|
|Loafer’s Station||222 SW Washington St||541-926-8183||https://www.facebook.com/LoafersStation/|
|Margin Coffee||206 Second Ave SW||(541)248-3234||https://www.margincoffee.com/|
|Momiji||641 Hickory St SE||541-497-6013||https://momijiinc.com/|
|Natural Sprinkles Co.||202 2nd Ave. SW||(541)666-0056||https://www.naturalsprinklesco.com/|
|No Rails Ale House||117 1st Ave NE||(541) 497-2137||http://norailsalehouse.com/|
|Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant||208 2nd Ave SW||541-967-9488||http://www.novakshungarian.com/|
|Sinister Distilling||635 NE Water Ave. Suite B||541-639-4257||https://www.sinisterdeluxe.com/|
|Sweet Red Bistro||208 1st Ave W||(541) 704-0510||https://www.sweetredwinebistro.com/|
|Sybaris Bistro||442 W. 1st Ave.||(541) 928-8157||http://www.sybarisbistro.com|
|Taqueria Alonzo||250 SW Broadalbin St. #107||541-812-1311||http://www.alonzotaqueria.com/|
|The Barn at Hickory Station||640 Hickory St NW||(541) 666-2974||https://www.facebook.com/thebarntaproom/|
|The Depot||822 Lyon St W||5419267326||http://depotrestaurantinc.com/|
|The Growler Garage & Tap House||229 3rd Ave SW||(541)248-3542||https://thegrowlergaragealbany.com/|
|Tone Thai Cuisine||236 W 1st Ave.||541-248-3666||http://tonethai.com|
|Vault 244 Bistro & Lounge||244 1st Ave. W||541-791-9511||http://vault244.com/|